Fantasy Flight Games, the maker of popular games like Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Arkham Horror is trying to usher in a new genre of tabletop games focused on providing a unique experience to each person who picks up a copy of a specific style of game.
Earlier this week, Fantasy Flight Games revealed their new game Discover: Lands Unknown, a new board game hailed as one of their first "Unique Games." Discover: Lands Unknown centers on a group of survivors trapped in a vast wilderness. Over the course of multiple scenarios, players need to not only survive the hostile terrain, but also escape to their past lives while avoiding enemies along the way. While Discover: Lands Unknown has a common set of rules, the components in each copy of the game will vary from box to box, making each game a unique experience for whoever buys it.
In Discover: Lands Unknown, everything from the pool of survivors that players control to the terrain the game the game takes place on is randomized, which makes each game experience a bit different. Your copy of Discover might have characters that can gain resources more easily, while your friend's copy might have characters who can move across terrain without depleting as much of their stamina. The scenarios players will run through in Discover also seem to vary from box to box, which means that while one game could be focused on survival, another might involve avoiding enemies or discovering lost secrets.
Discover is technically Fantasy Flight's second Unique Game, joining the already unveiled Keyforge, a new card game by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield. While card games typically fall into either the "collectible" or "living" card game genre, Keyforge comes with pre-made decks that are completely unique to the person who bought it. These decks can't be edited or re-built, which means that the only person in the world with that deck construction is the player who bought it.
These "Unique Games" mark an interesting departure from the predominant board game model, which is focused around a core set and multiple expansions. The model encourages both a completist mentality and a sense of collectibility - if you want to have the "complete" game experience, then you'll need to invest several hundred dollars in buying both the core game and its various additions.
In contrast, Discover and Keyforge both offer "unique" experiences centered around discovery and learning about the nuances of what makes your copy of the game unique. While Fantasy Flight can't offer up expansions or add-ons like their other games, these "Unique Games" could convince players who enjoy that feeling of discovery to pick up multiple copies.
The real key to the success of both these games is convincing board game players used to being completists that they don't NEED to have every component or card in the game. Those players will likely be irked by the random nature of Unique Games, and could complain that their FOMO (fear of missing out) is turning them away from investing in the games in the first place.
It seems that Fantasy Flight Games has big plans for their new "Unique Games" model - however, it's still unclear whether traditional tabletop game players will embrace this new style of game or reject in favor of more traditional styles of games.